Maintaining DE&I Momentum During The Great Resignation

Following a recent speaking engagement on the topic of Workplace Allyship and Belonging, an audience member raised an issue for discussion that you may be dealing with yourself.

Following a turbulent year and a half that disrupted most workplace norms and elevated diversity and inclusion to a top priority for every organization, a new challenge arrived…”The Great Resignation.”  Employers have experienced upwards of 40% of their teams might be leaving their jobs in the next year, with some leaving already. The combination of new return-to-office mandates, previous departure plans that were delayed by the pandemic, and many new revelations about the need for better work-life balance started a record-breaking departure from jobs in a shockingly small window of time.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, four million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. Resignations peaked in April and have remained abnormally high for the last several months, with a record-breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July. How can employers retain people, especially underrepresented groups, in the face of this tidal wave of resignations?

Based on recent comments I’ve received from audiences at virtual speaking engagements and participants in training webinars, the has major implications for companies’ DE&I initiatives. Many HR and talent acquisition teams that were already facing capacity issues are now struggling to fill gaps with qualified and available candidates, much less ones from diverse communities. In a climate where underrepresented job seekers are in high demand and many will be part of the talent leaving their jobs in the next year, employers face a major risk of seeing their D&I metrics decline.

The Great Resignation Doesn’t Have to Threaten Your DE&I Efforts

When advising clients, I like to share the advice of Arthur Woods the co-author of Hiring for Diversity, the first dedicated book for leaders to navigate growing diversity in their organizations by shifting their hiring and talent practices. Arthur is an LGBTQ+ leader and co-founder of diversity hiring technology company, Mathison.

In Hiring for Diversity, the co-authors Arthur Woods and Susanna Tharakan recommend:

  • To avoid sliding backward at this critical juncture, organizations need to break traditional conventions and fundamentally shift their approaches to diversity hiring. In such a competitive environment, the natural tendency will be to revert to old behavior.
  • Leaders will need to view filling gaps and advancing diversity not as an either/or but a both/and. Getting there requires dispelling some myths that have historically haunted diversity recruiting and hiring.
  • Slow down to think strategically, long-term, and reset time requirements. The greatest challenge leaders face right now is resisting the urge to move quickly and hire impulsively. Rushed recruiting efforts usually cause us to revert to our most familiar ways of hiring. We abandon structure and make short-sighted gut decisions, both of which are the perfect recipe for hiring bias.
  • Reframe your definition of “diverse hire” to account for underrepresented groups you may not see. Myth: The most effective approach to diversity hiring and goals is to narrow the focus on visible aspects of diversity, such as race and gender.
  • Many organizations base their diversity goals purely on increasing gender and racial representation and leave out entire groups from their efforts
  • In the research for the book, the co-authors studied 100 organizations and found that fewer than half (47%) accounted for people with disabilities in their diversity tracking and goal setting and only 11% accounted for the LGBTQ+ community. To make real progress on diversity, companies need to start with a more holistic and inclusive definition of diversity in the first place.

3 Organizations Advancing DE&I Despite Covid-19 and The Great Resignation

Discover Financial Services: Over the last year, Chief Diversity Officer Jonita Wilson and the Discover organization has made significant strides in its DE&I strategy—creating new company-wide training on the topic, setting aggressive goals for diverse representation, rolling out new expectations for executive accountability for DE&I, much of which has been fueled by a new Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.

Sephora: In the past year, Sephora made several renewed commitments to bring long-standing values of the brand to life. The company pledged to make the Sephora experience more inclusive and equitable, for team members, clients and the broader beauty community. To realize these commitments, George-Axelle Broussillon Matschinga, Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion at Sephora created a holistic strategy, named the Sephora D&I Heart Journey, supported by 11 internal D&I Task Forces and a detailed Action Plan disclosed in their Racial Bias in Retail Study — including marketing, merchandising, hiring, training, operations and the in-store experience — to tackle bias across all aspects of the organization.

Northwell Health: New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer was named the 2021 best health system for diversity in the U.S., according to the latest DiversityInc ranking of Top Hospitals and Health Systems. The DiversityInc ranking reflects Northwell Heath’s decade-long journey toward the tenets of diversity, inclusion and health equity for its team members, patients and communities. In partnership with the Healthcare Anchor Network, Northwell was one of the first health systems to declare racism as a public health crisis. “We are extremely proud of this important recognition and also recognize this journey continues,” said Maxine Carrington, Northwell’s Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. “We know that equity, diversity, and inclusion matter to our mission and is at the heart of all that we believe, value and do for our team members, patients and communities. We believe a supportive and inclusive work environment, where everyone feels valued and included, contributes to our overall care for our patients and communities.”

The Great Resignation…A Great Opportunity To Start, Reboot or Elevate DE&I

Following a prolonged period of what feels like endless change, the thought of even more feels daunting, especially at a time when capacity and resources may be scarce. But it’s important to see this as an opportunity to open the door to making remarkable progress on DE&I that could have otherwise taken much longer to materialize.

The Inclusive Leaders Group team has experience and deep expertise regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) within all industries. We know that sometimes organizations don’t always have the experienced talent resources internally to execute diversity and inclusion strategic planning. Those that do, often find their team busy managing other initiatives.

We’re ready to hear about your 2022 DE&I challenges and S.M.A.R.T. goals. We’ll  share how we can help.

Charlotte F. Hughes is the successful Co-founder and CEO of Inclusive Leaders Group, LLC where she has designed and directed DEI talent and organizational development strategies that have been implemented by Fortune 500 companies, large and small healthcare systems, and some of the largest global non-profits. Charlotte is a widely sought-after speaker and thought leader on issues ranging from allyship & belonging, inclusive leadership, to everyday practices for building a healthy inclusive culture. Each presentation is based on research, tailored to the specifics of the group, and presented with Charlotte’s recognized levels of introspection, self-awareness, and painting a picture through storytelling.

Meeting you where you are with inclusion, insight, and inspiration ….Together, we can create a better world.


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